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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

How to be a ‘Jeopardy!’ genius

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The Hawk News
Beth Donnelly ’24 testing her “Jeopardy!” genius skills. PHOTO: MADELINE WILLIAMS ’26/THE HAWK

A software engineer from Utah. A bartender from New York City. A record store employee from Pennsylvania. What do these people have in common? They all went on to become renowned champions on the popular game show, “Jeopardy!”

Every season, hundreds of contestants from all walks of life win big bucks on national television. The casual watcher may chalk this up to hidden, natural genius — but hardcore fans can tell you there’s more than meets the eye. Here are four helpful tips to wow your friends and establish your rightful place as the family genius.

Watch more “Jeopardy!” Seriously.

Although “Jeopardy!” focuses on a wide variety of topics, frequent viewers may find themselves getting deja vu surprisingly often. The show repeats topics time and time again. Common topics will include war history, geography, politics and an odd amount of opera. 

Sometimes, the clue writers even re-use the same clues in different seasons. In one episode, a clue could potentially be, “The only North American marsupial,” and the answer would be, “What is an opossum?” In another episode, the clue could be, “An opossum’s classification,” and the answer would be, “What is a marsupial?”

Learn from the champs

Jeopardy!” contestants who go on to be champions have many strategies. Their tips for handling gutsy Daily Doubles may not be applicable to viewers, but their studying methods are. Many contestants prepare for the show by creating flashcards based on the questions asked in past episodes. 

Additionally, as soon as category names are revealed, contestants are already imagining potential answers. This method, called category priming, was used by champion James Holzhauer, who has set multiple single-game records for winnings. Lastly, almost all champs tend to have a background in trivia competitions, à la quiz bowls or bar trivia. This is proof that going to the pub on a weeknight is good for you, Mom.

Read more to increase speed

No, I’m not going to tell you to read and memorize an encyclopedia, although, admittedly, that would help. Subject matter aside, reading more will increase your reading speed. Contestants don’t actually tend to read every word on the board once the clue has been revealed. Instead, they skim the question and pick out keywords. This way, before the host is even done reading the question, the contestant is ready to press the buzzer. In your case, this means you’ll be able to blurt out, “What is…” seconds before the rest of your living room audience.

Never skip a daily crossword puzzle

Many “Jeopardy!” clues involve wordplay similar to that of a crossword puzzle. These categories might be “[number]-LETTER WORDS” or “CROSSWORD CLUES ‘B.’” Crossword puzzles, similar to “Jeopardy!,” require you to think about words in a particular way. Do them frequently in order to train your inner wordsmith, then get ready to demolish those categories.

In simple terms: Work harder, not smarter. Following these tips will surely give you a well-deserved leg up. 

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